The Tea Lords | Granta

  • Published: 01/09/2011
  • ISBN: 9781846271717
  • 129x30mm
  • 352 pages

The Tea Lords

Hella S. Haasse

Translated by Ina Rilke

Born into wealth and privilege, Rudolf Kerkhoven is destined to follow his father’s footsteps into the Dutch colonies, with its uncleared jungle foothills and potential for riches. When he arrives in Java he is immediately smitten by the landscape and the life, and over the seasons, Rudolf’s dedication and diligence gradually transform the land into a productive estate for tea, coffee and quinine. When he meets the independent-minded Jenny and their two sons are born, Rudolf is happier than he thought possible. But for Jenny, the damp austerity of their home, her fertility, her father’s secret, and the native spirits of the land grow to overshadow their marriage and the life they’ve strived for together.

Lusciously atmospheric and masterfully drawn, this is an unforgettable story of aspiration, determination, rivalry and romance on a tropical plantation.

A graceful, marvellously achieved improvisation that only a novelist of the greatest imagination and sympathy could have written

Julian Evans, Guardian

Put it at the top of your reading list


Haasse has created a compelling piece of innovative historical fiction ... [She] effortlessly combines an evocation of the plantation's heady, lush vegetation with her articulation of the growing distance between man and wife. And her aptly chosen metaphors are all skillfully conveyed in Ina Rilke's translation

Sunday Times

The Author

Hella S. Haasse was born in 1918 in Batavia, modern-day Jakarta. She moved to the Netherlands after secondary school. She started publishing in 1945 and many of her books have gained classic status in the Netherlands. Haasse has received several prestigious literary awards, among them the Dutch Literature Prize in 2004, and her work has been translated into many languages. The Tea Lords (Portobello 2010) was the first work of hers translated into English for 15 years. She died in 2011.

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From the Same Author

The Black Lake

Hella S. Haasse, translated by Ina Rilke

Amid the lush abundance of Java’s landscape, two boys spend their days exploring the vast lakes and teeming forests. But as time passes the boys come to realize that their shared sense of adventure cannot bridge the gulf between their backgrounds, for one is the son of a Dutch plantation owner, and the other the son of a servant. Inevitably, as they grow up, they grow estranged and it is not until years later that they meet again. It will be an explosive and emblematic meeting that marks them even more deeply than their childhood friendship did.